‘Time Shelter’ Makes History as First Bulgarian Novel to Win International Booker Prize 2023

In a momentous achievement for Bulgarian literature, “Time Shelter” has become the first novel originally published in Bulgarian to win the prestigious International Booker Prize. The book, written by Georgi Gospodinov, captivates readers with its innovative premise—a ‘clinic for the past’ that offers a groundbreaking treatment for Alzheimer’s patients. Each floor of the clinic meticulously recreates a different decade, immersing patients in a detailed and immersive journey through time. However, the novel takes a twist when the past begins to infiltrate the present, resulting in unforeseen consequences.

The panel of judges for the 2023 International Booker Prize, chaired by acclaimed French-Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani, announced the winning book at a grand ceremony held at London’s Sky Garden on May 23. Joining Slimani on the panel were esteemed individuals such as Uilleam Blacker, a renowned literary translator specializing in Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, a Malaysian novelist previously shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Parul Sehgal, a staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, the Literary Editor of the Financial Times.

The judges for the 2023 prize sought to honor the best work of international fiction translated into English, selecting entries published in the UK or Ireland between May 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023.

Read: Perumal Murugan, Indian Writer, Included in International Booker Prize 2023 Longlist

About the Book: “Time Shelter”

“Time Shelter” delves into the extraordinary concept of a ‘clinic for the past’ and its promise of a breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer’s patients. The story revolves around an unnamed narrator tasked with collecting fragments from the past—ranging from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to evocative scents and the subtle nuances of afternoon light. As the rooms within the clinic become increasingly convincing, healthy individuals begin seeking solace in this ‘time shelter,’ longing to escape the hardships of modern life. However, this newfound trend leads to an unexpected dilemma when the past starts encroaching upon the present, causing an upheaval of circumstances.

With meticulous craftsmanship and eloquent translation by Angela Rodel, “Time Shelter” solidifies Georgi Gospodinov’s reputation as one of the foremost contemporary writers and a significant voice in international literature.

About the Author and Translator

Georgi Gospodinov, the author of “Time Shelter,” hails from Yambol, Bulgaria, and has garnered critical acclaim with his works translated into 25 languages. Regarded as the most translated and internationally recognized Bulgarian writer since the fall of communism, Gospodinov has established himself as a leading figure in European literature through his novels, poems, essays, screenplays, and graphic novels.

His literary contributions have earned him nominations for numerous prestigious international prizes, including the PEN Literary Award for Translation, the Premio Gregor von Rezzori, the Bruecke Berlin Preis, and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Literaturpreis. Gospodinov received the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in 2016 and the Angelus Literature Central Europe Prize in 2019, among other notable accolades.

La Repubblica has even likened him to “a Proust from the East.” “Time Shelter” marks his third novel to be published in English, with the Italian edition winning the esteemed Premio Strega Europeo prize the previous year. Additionally, Gospodinov’s graphic novel, “The Eternal Fly,” holds the distinction of being the first Bulgarian graphic novel, and his short story “Blind Vaysha” was adapted into an Oscar-nominated short animation film in 2017.

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel Book Cover

Angela Rodel, the talented translator of “Time Shelter,” is not only a literary translator but also a musician and actor residing in Bulgaria. Originally from Minnesota, United States, Rodel holds degrees from Yale and UCLA and has been awarded NEA and PEN translation grants.

Her translation of Gospodinov’s “The Physics of Sorrow” received the National Book Center’s 2015 Peroto Prize for best translation from Bulgarian, the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Best Book of Literary Translation, and was a finalist for prestigious translation awards in the United States, including the 2016 PEN Translation Prize, the 2016 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association, and Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award for 2016. Rodel’s translations of poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, such as McSweeney’s, Little Star, Ploughshares, Granta.org, Two Lines, and Words Without Borders.

In recognition of her translation work and contributions to Bulgarian culture, she was granted Bulgarian citizenship in 2014. Beyond her literary pursuits, Rodel has been involved in a Bulgarian folk band as a singer, appeared in a Bulgarian crime drama series, and starred in the film “Kozelat,” where she impressively rides a goat.

Featured Image – The Booker Prizes 2023